Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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It’s hard, and probably impossible, to express just what a disappointment Dana Carvey’s career has been. After all, an entire generation — my entire generation — of Americans came of age watching him on Saturday Night Live, bringing an infectious and masterful comic flair to a cast that included such instant heavyweights as Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz, Mike Meyers, Chris Farley and Chris Rock, among others. He managed to stand out among a cast of standouts…but once he left the show, there was no going back. It was over. Dana Carvey — as an entertainer — might as well have ceased to exist.

Anyway, I’ve never seen The Master of Disguise. I’ve heard it’s shit. I think that’s probably true. I did see Clean Slate, which is the other movie that sunk Carvey from the public consciousness forever, and that was most certainly a pile of trash.

Long story short my girlfriend’s on vacation, my dog is asleep, and Netflix just recommended this to me because it doesn’t like me very much, so let’s watch this mother.

12:25 – Already Netflix is taunting me.

It says almost ready because I still have a few crumbs of dignity I need to lose.

…and, ready.

12:27 – Wow, this is a Happy Madison production? I guess it didn’t ruin everyone’s career then.

12:28 – It’s almost funny to see Dana Carvey get first billing. That’d be inconceivable today. Oh, and James Brolin is in this. Because he was hoping he’d die on set and his family would get a lot of insurance money.

12:30 – This theme song sucks. It’s just some…actually, wait. This sounds like Belinda Carlisle. Don’t you dare fucking taint my Go-Gos, Master of Disguise..

12:31 – A screen of text appeared, and then a narrator decided to read it to us. Guess what, filmmakers…if you do one, you don’t need to do the other. A caption (mercifully not read aloud) informs us that we’re in Palermo, Italy. I’m glad it told me, because I definitely would have thought we were on a barren soundstage with a scenery budget of $40.

12:32 – A woman flees from a bunch of criminals or something, and the narrator tells us it’s really a man, ruining the joke that comes immediately afterward where it’s REVEALED THAT IT’S A MAN. Again, movie, you don’t need to do both. Oh good, and now we’re in “America present day.” I guess punctuation costs extra.

12:33 – Dana Carvey is wearing a shaving cream beard and holding a hockey stick. Great. Now it shows us some clips of his younger years, including a scene in which he slaps the doctor for slapping him as a baby, which I’m sure is hilarious to somebody somewhere, probably to a chap of around six. Now the flashback is over and he kisses his dad(?) and leaves shaving cream on him. His dad makes a face at the camera so we know we should be laughing. Don’t remind us of that fact, film.

12:34 – “Walking on Sunshine” is on the soundtrack, because of course it is.

12:35 – Dana Carvey’s name is Pistachio in this movie. He has a terrible Italian accent for some reason. Oh Christ, now he’s impersonating both Shrek and the Donkey. This movie came out after Shrek? What better way to chart the difference in career trajectory between Wayne and Garth? I mean, I hate Shrek, but at least people went to see it.

12:36 – Pistachio’s last name is Disguisey, because life really isn’t worth living. He sees a hot girl and wants to masturbate to her, but his dad shows up. And also he’s in public. Even if he weren’t, though, come on. His dad showed up.

12:37 – Hey, Jay Johnston is in this! From Mr. Show! That’s really depressing! He trips Pistachio who drops spaghetti on some fucking people who just sit there woodenly because they’re unpaid extras and don’t get any lines and therefore don’t need to act.

12:39 – Someone says “meatballs” to Pistachio and it makes him wig out. That makes sense, since Pistachio is a waiter at an Italian restaurant and is an Italian child from an Italian family and therefore has never heard that word before.

12:41 – Whose idea was it to give Dana Carvey a film in which he speaks in this stupid accent the whole time? This is as bad a decision as that Heartbeeps movie where Andy Kauffman plays a robot.

12:42 – Pistachio just quoted “Papa Don’t Preach” to his dad, out of context, for no reason, and that’s a joke.

12:43 – Now he sees Jay Johnston and the girl from earlier making out in an alley. Pistachio wants to masturbate again, but now it will be sad masturbation. That’s what we call character development.

12:44 – Some gangsters or mob members or whatever are attacking Pistachio’s dad. I don’t give a shit. Pistachio doesn’t see it happen but he’s still able to report every detail to the police over the phone, who hang up on him causing him to drop the phone, because that’s how that works.

12:45 – This seems like it’s supposed to be an Airplane!-style sendup of something…but there’s no movie to send up, so Pistachio just makes funny faces.

12:46 – He tells his grandfather about what happened to his dad, and his grandfather says, “Did you hear something that sounded like this?” and then punched him in the face a few times. Pistachio enthusiastically replies, “Yes! Just like that!” That was actually funny. Then Pistachio has to add, “But without the pain on my face…” which kills it. Just leave the laugh line alone, Pistachio!

12:47 – Pistachio is groping a fat Spanish woman’s face because it’s actually his grandfather in disguise and Jesus Christ this kind of thing is going to happen a lot in this movie, isn’t it?

12:48 – Flashback to George Washington chopping down the Cherry Tree, just as I was hoping, only the tree gets up AND LEAVES GET IT.

12:49 – Abe Lincoln is now dancing to that “I Like to Move It Move It” song.

12:50 – I can’t tell how old Pistachio is meant to be. Dana Carvey seems like he’s playing a three year old, so I can’t tell if the joke is that he’s a grown man who acts childish, or a little kid who looks like a grown man. If I have to wonder about it, I guess, it’s probably not worth the effort.

12:51 – Pistachio and his grandfather go into the attic and find a brass sphere that can open washing machines and light candles. Then Pee-Wee’s breakfast machine starts up, revealing…revealing…I couldn’t hear it. I don’t know. His father’s wardrobe or something. Now Pistachio can be the master of disguise. Or participate in a montage wherein he does silly things with costume accessories. The song playing in the background seems to be called “Master of Disguise” and was probably recorded just for this scene by a group of young people who killed themselves later that afternoon.

12:55 – Pistachio’s dad is strapped to a chair. His wife will be burned to death unless he agrees to become a Master of Disguise for the mob. The mobster farts and pretends it didn’t happen. I wish I could do the same.

12:57 – We rejoin Pistachio demonstrating Ashton Kutcher-like levels of racial sensitivity by dressing as an Indian Man and talking like Apu having a stroke.

12:59 – He charms a snake by playing the recorder, which emanates elevator jazz when he puts his lips to it. Now the snake is eating cheese out of his hand and kissing his face. Would you like to watch this movie? Somehow I don’t think Dana Carvey would like to watch it either.

1:00 – Grandpappy Disguisey is showing Pistachio how to fight by using a wooden dummy. The expression on the dummy’s face is my favorite thing in the movie so far.

1:01 – It’s funny when old people say “Who’s your daddy?” so granddad says it over and over again while he slaps the dummy. Hee hee.

1:02 – Pistachio’s dad dresses like a black guy and the mobster farts.

1:03 – The robot slaps Pistachio a bunch of times and says “I”m your daddy.” Then Pistachio and his grandfather see a woman who turns out to be a man so they put ice cream in their mouths and make their eyes bug out. Then they are at a street cafe talking about disguises. This movie feels like a bunch of 6 second scenes stitched together, and not like a movie with a continuous flow at all. Oh, and now there’s another montage, wherein Pistachio chooses a sidekick — why would people apply for that position anyway? — while “Whip It” plays. I honestly think they just lifted this entire soundtrack from some other movie. Or, like, 40 other movies.

1:04 – A little kid falls of his bike and his mom shows up and she’s hot so Pistachio gets a boner.

1:06 – Really sick of Pistachio’s “accent.” He’s describing how he’d like to have a woman who has a big butt like his mother.

1:07 – Training over, I guess. Grandpa’s leaving, which means Pistachio will have to incorrectly wear costumes and make silly faces for inappropriate reasons all by himself.

1:08 – They are dancing.

1:10 – The woman is his sidekick so they dig through a dumpster and Pistachio wears hilarious goggles. They find a mobster’s cigar butt, which the girl recognizes but Pistachio does not.

1:11 – Now he is dressed as a turtle man and the movie is halfway over. He keeps saying “turtle.” Why wouldn’t he. Isn’t a master of disguise supposed to be inconspicuous? Otherwise why dress up? Why not just show up as Pistachio? Nobody knows who the fuck he is at this place. Why is he making an ass out of himself? Why is he making an ass out of me for watching this?

1:15 – Oh fuck you.

1:16 – Pistachio bites some guy’s nose off, then spits it right back onto his face. Now he’s spinning around on the floor like Curly from The Three Stooges. Then he finds out the girl has a boyfriend and he is disappointed, because everything was going so well up until she said that.

1:18 – Jesse Ventura is in this movie. He steals the Liberty Bell, as if you couldn’t guess.

1:19 – The mobster re-farts.

1:20 – Pistachio is nice to the little kid but the girl’s boyfriend is not. “Eye of the Tiger” plays for no reason. Pistachio is dancing again. I’d wonder if this film even has a script, but even the worst improv is better than this shit.

1:21 – The dog is riding a skateboard.

1:22 – Pistachio wrestles the dummy because it went berserk. The robot pulls Pistachio’s pants off.

1:23 – The robot again pulls Pistachio’s pants off.

1:24 – Now Pistachio is dressed as Wilma Flintstone. He calls somebody an idiot, which is not an appropriate thing for an older woman to do, so everybody makes a face.

1:25 – He’s acting obtrusive and awful again. Why is he bothering with disguises? He could just go in his normal clothes and not act like a dick.

1:26 – A cover version of “Walking on Sunshine.” It was definitely worth hearing again.

1:28 – Now he is dressed as Tony Montana and he says “Say hello to my little friend” because that is a line from that movie.

1:29 – The girl is sneaking around in the mobster’s house. She finds some pictures and stuffs them in her purse. Then she says, “I’m going to take these,” in case we didn’t know why she was putting them in her purse. In the film’s defense, yeah, it could have been for any number of reasons!

1:30 – That “Come On Shake Your Body Baby Do the Conga” song by Gloria Estefan is playing now, so Pistachio dances for the hundredth fucking time.

1:31 – They are chasing Pistachio and throwing him out. I don’t think anyone involved in making this film had any idea of what disguises are for.

1:31 – Now he’s doing Jaws. The whole fucking “shark in the water” monologue. It’s like this movie so ashamed of itself that it keeps reminding you of better movies to distract you from the fact that you’re watching Master of Disguise.

1:34 – Now Pistachio disguises himself as a pile of cow crap and someone else sings “Master of Disguise.”

1:35 – He’s dressed as Peter Pan crossed with Ed Grimley or some shit. I think they’re just cycling through a bunch of disguises in a row so they can put them all on the VHS box cover.

1:36 – Now he’s some Scotland Yard investigator or something and this fucking sucks. Not one of these disguises has been funny, and the movie seems to think this should be the funniest damned thing I’ve ever seen.

1:38 – Just a half hour left. The hot girl from earlier in the movie is here and Pistachio spills water on the guy she’s with, who turns out to be the new hot girl’s boyfriend. Pistachio gets all sorts of boners and they fight.

1:39 – “Can’t Touch This.” Of fucking course “Can’t Touch This.”

1:40 – Jessica Simpson is in this. I thought it might be Ashley. I don’t give a shit that I was wrong. I guess they wanted everyone in the theater to go nuts about all the surprise cameos. There was just one little flaw: nobody was in the theater.

1:41 – The mobster farts.

1:43 – The woman kisses Pistachio. Some serious emotional content in this scene. Those emotions are boredom, indifference, and irritation.

1:45 – This happens.

1:46 – The mobster shows off the lunar lander he stole and it seriously fucking looks like this movie had a prop budget of less than I make in a week. It’s construction paper and tinsel! Kevin Nealon is in this movie as well, so far the only other Saturday Night Live alum I noticed, just to remind everyone of why we hadn’t seen him anywhere for 10 years.

1:48 – Pistachio comes out of a pie.

1:49 – He fights the mobsters and the whole thing is broadcast live on eBay. Yes, really.

1:50 – The third separate rendition of “Master of Disguise.” They paid for this song and fucked if they weren’t going to get their money’s worth.

1:51 – Grandpa shows up to witness Pistachio’s victory. Really; that’s what he says out loud. The mobster farts. Farts. Farts. Farts. Four. Motherfucking. Times.

1:53 – Pistachio and the mobster fight on top of the lunar lander, which Pistachio grabs onto as he falls off and the mobster steps on his fingers because somebody saw North by Northwest.

1:54 – The mobster was actually Pistachio’s dad so everybody hugs.

1:55 – The Disguisey family walks side by side, and the narrator says that Pistachio married the girl and everything worked out great. Well, gee, if we weren’t going to see any of this pan out, why not just tell us all that shit upfront, narrator? Save us the hassle of watching.

1:56 – The movie is over but the filmmakers needed to squeeze in Carvey’s famous Bush impression. This time it’s W. The mobster falls underwater and farts.

1:57 – The end credits feature the fourth fucking rendition of “Master of Disguise.” We see each of the main cast members and some of the minor ones dance, because we haven’t seen enough of that already. Also Pistachio says “Say hello to my little friend” again, in case we forgot that he said that earlier.

1:59 – A million bloopers. He does the “you like-a the juice?” thing from Saturday Night Live, just so we know the precise distance he’s fallen.

2:00 – There sure are a lot of fucking outtakes. Including impressions of Groucho Marx, Bob Ross, some ancient Greek guy…oh, and now more dancing. Of course more dancing.

2:01 – A scene is ruined because everybody starts laughing at Carvey’s antics. Maybe that’s the problem…they put everyone who found him funny in the movie, so there was nobody left to go see it.

2:02 – A deleted scene has to do with Pistachio being hypnotized by the big butted women the mobster trots out, which explains — but by no means justifies — the ass obsession in this movie. Then that ends and we see more credits and outtakes. I swear to fuck a fifth of this movie is gag reel.

2:03 – W. dances, and the turtle man. Gee, it’s like coming home to old friends.

2:04 – It turns out a midget was in the dummy, so he and Pistachio are slapping each other. This movie ended like 10 minutes ago…why is it still showing itself to me?

2:05 – Oh good, an epilogue is appended to the film, in which the midget and Pistachio make amends. Pistachio wonders aloud what we’re still doing here. He could have asked that five minutes into the thing, really.

2:06 – Yet ANOTHER fucking epilogue, in which the dog talks and says “No more dog food.” This is like watching a movie that fell from space. It looks and sounds a lot like the movies here on Earth, but fuck me if I have any idea what they meant by it.

2:07 – And now, at last, it’s over, and another little sliver of my life has been peeled away forever. Not the sort of feeling comedies usually like to leave you with, but there you go.

I don’t think it’s even a slight exaggeration to say that The Cleveland Show is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of everything.

For starters, I’m still not sure why it exists, ever has existed, or will continue to exist. Perhaps the Family Guy writers were sick of having a character around that hadn’t yet devolved into a sociopathic asshole and so they shipped him off to his own show so they would never have to write for a second character type again. Or perhaps we all just raped a lot of grandmothers in our past lives and this is our karmic retribution. Whatever the reason, it’s shit.

Then again, with the exception of the first episode, I’ve never sat through an entire installment of The Cleveland Show. Oh, I’ve seen a bunch of them most of the way through, but I rarely pay much attention to it. And as Fox has won me over with two recent animated shows that I expected to be utter garbage (Bob’s Burgers, which is legitimately brilliant, and Napoleon Dynamite, which isn’t awful and therefore qualifies as miraculous), I figured I’d give this one another shot, liveblogging my thoughts as I go. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up loving it. If so, I’ll end the liveblog with a justin.tv link to my live, streaming suicide.

Oh, and before we begin, The Cleveland Show is currently in its third season. That’s at least a season more than three of my all-time favorite shows were allowed to have. And this would be the season that saw the still-brilliant American Dad! airing episodes of such stellar quality as “The Vacation Goo,” “Meter Made,” “Dope & Faith,” “The 42-Year-Old Virgin” and “Widowmaker,” all of which would be serious contenders for my list of favorite episodes of anything ever. SO LET’S SEE HOW THE CLEVELAND SHOW MEASURES UP I’M SURE IT’S GREAT.

6:15 — The plot summary for this episode says that Cleveland goes deaf, his wife Roberta goes back to school, and his son runs against his step daughter for class president. So, the three blandest plots imaginable in one easy-to-swallow episode. I’m just sorry Cleveland doesn’t also have to impersonate his Texas cousin Austin and then have to run back and forth between two blind dates.

6:30 — It begins. God I hate this theme song. Not that Family Guy or American Dad have real winners or anything, but is this whole thing just an excuse to have him sing “happy mustache face?”

6:31 — Cleveland is crawling through some heating ducts. Then he’s done and his wife starts crying. Excellent writing so far.

6:32 — Cleveland attempts to “use the force” to get a remote control to levitate into his hand, and then he convinces his son to make him a sandwich. This is on the air, folks.

6:33 — New scene, Cleveland Jr. is talking to his teacher about being class president, or something. Then the teacher flashes back to…a few hours ago maybe? He’s singing “Fuck You” in a barbershop style. This was a lot funnier when the chickens sang it in the recent Muppets movie, and even there it wasn’t particularly funny.

6:34 — Cleveland said that something’s got his wife all “insane in the femme brain.” That’s the closest thing to actual humor I’ve heard in this episode yet, and it’s long out-of-date reference to Cypress Hill. Does anyone even know who they are anymore? And did I almost laugh because it was funny, or just because I recognized it? It’s probably the latter…

6:36 — Cleveland’s step daughter showed up to a class presidential debate dressed as Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin was also someone who was at some debates once. I guess.

6:37 — Cleveland’s wife tells him he can’t go on a hunting trip because he might get killed. Then she plays “Taps” on the recorder. I’m honestly not sure if these even qualify as jokes, so much as they’re just things that happen after other things happen.

6:38 — The bear drinks a lot of beer and burps.

6:39 — Cleveland Jr. hires the talking baby (whose name is Black Stewie, or should be) to convince the Sarah Palin girl not to run. Then we cut back to Cleveland who hears a gun go off and then is deaf.

6:40 — First commercial break. What’s happened so far? I can’t even summarize it. There’s no narrative flow to speak of, which, hey, isn’t a huge deal in itself for a cartoon show, but there also haven’t really been any jokes. I almost think that this show must be written for toddlers, the way all the jokes seem to have the word “fart” or the sound of a burp as a punchline. That’s where we’re supposed to be laughing, people. And I do imagine it would be a fucking riot if I was…six.

6:41 — Commercial is over; that was quick. Cleveland is at the doctor and speaking in a steotypically hilarious “deaf guy” voice. This sure bodes well for the rest of the episode.

6:42 — In order to hide his impairment Cleveland is just agreeing with everything his wife says. Fortunately the “deaf guy” voice went away, which is a good thing but probably wouldn’t have happened if any of the people writing this thing gave a shit.

6:43 — A sign outside the school says ELECTIONS TODAY, and two children hold up the letter R, giggling, before they change the sign to read ELECTRONS TODAY. That’s genuinely clever. Credit where due…I’m happy to admit it when good writing works its way into this show.

6:44 — The deaf guy voice is back. That didn’t last long.

6:45 — Cleveland’s hearing comes back, because I guess the writers ran out of funny jokes to make about serious injuries resulting in permanent hearing loss.

6:46 — Cleveland is wearing ear plugs so that he can go on agreeing with everything his wife says…though I’m not sure why he has to be deaf to do that, particularly when he was hiding the fact that he was deaf anyway. Shouldn’t the fact that his hearing came back just sort of…solve the problem?

6:47 — Cleveland’s wife sold his baseball cards, which I’m sure we never heard about or cared about in the past, to pay for school. Because she’s going to school, I guess. As a direct result of this, Cleveland dresses up as a giant sandwich and then runs away from his fat son, screaming. Another commercial begins because, seriously, where the fuck do you go from there?

8:50 — Cleveland summarizes everything that’s happened so far, in case the viewers needed to be reminded that nothing’s happened so far.

8:51 — The step-daughter is elected president and then immediately resigns, which is hilarious, as that’s definitely the kind of joke we need to be making about a minor news item that’s three years out of date.

8:52 — Black Stewie walks down a hallway and disappears.

8:53 — Cleveland admits to his wife that he couldn’t hear for a while, but then could, explaining why he was agreeing with everything she said, making this, I don’t know, the third time the show needs to explain itself to us. Maybe if it didn’t worry so much about whether or not we understood its nonsense, it might find time to make us laugh.

8:54 — Then again, the funniest thing in this episode is still the Cypress Hill reference so…fuck that.

8:55 — Cleveland’s house is in turmoil because his wife was at college. Then she comes back. Wow, that plot development lasted a full minute, and didn’t really give us any jokes unless you count the fact that Cleveland thought his wife’s new friends were pretty as a joke. Which, well…why the hell not. Might as well fill out the numbers.

8:56 — Third commercial break. The story so far: Cleveland was deaf for two minutes, his wife was at college for sixty seconds, and there was an entire school election plot that happened entirely off-camera. I honestly think I’d get more out of this show by not watching it.

8:57 — Oh, it’s over? Nice…uh…punch line. For those who weren’t watching, it ended with Cleveland walking upstairs.

Thanks for sharing the laughs, everybody!

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